Just like that, my time in South Africa with the Safari4u Veterinary Program has come to an end. Words truly cannot describe how amazing this experience has been, and my heart aches with an indescribable pain as I prepare to leave this place, these people, and this absolutely incredible program. Prior to this trip, I had not spent any time traveling outside of the country, and yet somehow in the short 5 weeks that I have spent working on this project, I am now struggling to imagine a life for myself where exploration and adventure are not at the forefront.
I embarked on this journey thinking that I knew exactly who I was and precisely what I wanted in the future. In hindsight, I realize that I had been terribly misunderstood. I have in this time witnessed myself flourish and change in more ways than I thought imaginable, and I have similarly come to embrace a revitalized, newfound sense of self.
This program, for one, has allowed me to appreciate the extent to which I enjoy and am energized by the presence of others. One of the most treasured aspects of this trip, in my eyes, has involved connecting with individuals from all around the world, and I have been blessed to discover just how bonded and attached a group of people can become when they are together placed in a situation such as this. Till this day, I remain baffled by this fleeting experience and how it has led me to encounter individuals who I am confident will remain among my closest, most cherished companions for the rest of my life.
In addition to this discovery, I have similarly found just how liberating and thrilling it is to live a life that embraces travel, adventure, and spontaneity. This experience has drawn out and rejuvenated an audacious side of myself—a side that is often left hidden and forgotten due to the stressful nature of daily life—unleashing what I imagine may be the most joyful, self-assured, and utterly authentic version of myself that I have yet to witness.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, my remarkable journey through this program has taught me the irreplaceable value of “sticking it out” and pushing through times of doubt, discomfort, and panic. This experience has drawn out and tested every ounce of courage and confidence that I have to offer, driving me to contest and eventually overcome the anxieties that I had always feared may become the driving forces of my life. This rewarding consequence has given me the tenacity and drive to fearlessly take on future challenges—a liberating state of mind which has allowed me to exist in a long awaited state of unreserved independence.
To think that I nearly turned my shoulder on this opportunity, brushing it off as yet another far-fetched and unattainable endeavor, sends a shiver down my spine. The eyes and perspective through which I view this world, and my place in it, have been wildly influenced by this experience, and I have an inexpressible amount of gratitude for having been granted the support, both emotionally and monetarily, to intrepidly take advantage of this chance. Every aspect of my life has and will continue to be shaped by this program’s powerful influence, and this, without a doubt, has been the most eye-opening, gratifying gift of all.
My heart fills with a bittersweet despair as I acknowledge the end of this awe-inspiring journey. This goodbye is by no means easy. In fact, in this moment, it feels hardly short of devastating. Yet as I look toward the future, inexplicably bright and undefined, I am overcome with a sense of elation and warmth as I realize that this experience—this inconceivable, humbling, surreal experience—is only just the beginning.
Until my next adventure… hamba kakuhle!
—all photos taken by myself—